Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Personal loyalties can become a fatal flaw in Presidential politics

In Wikipedia among the things that you can learn about the late President Harry Truman is this:
In 1945, Vice President Truman shocked many when, a few days after being sworn in, he attended the Pendergast funeral. Truman was reportedly the only elected official who attended the funeral. Truman brushed aside the criticism, saying simply, "He was always my friend and I have always been his."
The Pendergast involved was Missouri political boss Thomas Joseph Pendergast who after serving 15 months in prison for failing to pay taxes on a bribe retired.

The funeral was just weeks before Truman became President. Many praised Truman's loyalty to a friend. But four years before, Truman's loyalty to Pendergast almost cost him his second term in the United States Senate. Without that second term, Truman would not have become Vice-President, and the President. But that election risk at the time was for a Senate seat, not for the Presidency.

It is 2016. This person is in the political news again:

Of course you recognize her, right? No? Well here's some information on her:

Doesn't help? Well, if you're not a Muslim scholar or a player in international women's rights, that's understandable.

From a biographical standpoint, we know that Saleha S. Mahmood was born in 1940 in undivided India (now Pakistan). She was married to the late Zyed Abedin, an Indian-born an Islamic and Middle Eastern scholar who also received his PhD at Penn. In the early 1970's they were in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where Zyed was affiliated with Western Michigan University.

In 1978 Abdullah Omar Naseef, then-vice president of King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, recruited Zyed Abedin to work for the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), a Saudi-based Islamic think tank. Both Zyed and Saleha Abedin would serve as editorial-board members of IMMA's in-house publication, the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (JMMA). After her husband died in 1993, Saleha S. Mahmood, as she is named on the JMMA website, became the director of IMMA; today she serves as editor-in-chief of its Journal.

From all rational appearances (as opposed to the American paranoid right-wing view), Saleha S. Mahmood is a 76-year-old academic, administrator, and editor who late in life is in the middle of the effort to modernize the world's Muslim population without sacrificing the core beliefs of the religion. She apparently does have strong religious beliefs and is not afraid of controversy. Or to put it another way, she's controversial.

She is regarded as a feminist though she is not going to join Bill Maher advocating that Muslim women run out and buy a bunch of short sun dresses.

Now why would this woman be in the news, you might ask?

In Michigan in 1976 Saleha gave birth to a daughter, Huma Abedin, described two weeks ago by Vogue magazine as Hillary Clinton’s "assistant, adviser, and professional confidante for two decades," and "powerful, glamorous, and ubiquitous, many ways the engine at the center of Clinton’s well-run machine, crucial and yet largely out of sight."

This Hillary-Huma relationship has resulted in photos with Saleha Mahmood like this:

Now one might understand that these intelligent women might associate. After all Huma's has been referred to as Hillary's other daughter. It's bound to stir some right wing flurry of paranoia but it is the kind silliness the regular media might ignore.

But this is a picture of Huma, a practicing Muslim, with her now-estranged Jewish husband...

You can forget the possibility of Huma Abedin remaining nearly invisible to the mainstream or any other media.

The Vogue story is about as positive about Huma as one can get, but it has quotes like this about her relationship with Clinton: "Over the years, we’ve shared stories about our lives. We’ve celebrated together, we’ve mourned together"

As one might imagine already too many see parallels between Huma's marriage and Hillary's marriage. And once you've opened up this politically irrelevant discussion, the press can't ignore the fact that most of the public until now knew virtually nothing about Clinton's closest aide except from some challenges on her role from the Congressional right.

Huma has been treated very sympathetically by the Washington Post and others. But in January Vanity Fair offered up this headline Is Huma Abedin Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon or Her Next Big Problem? as others in the press suggested that asset or not she could be a problem for the campaign.

And so this week we have this headline in the Los Angeles Times Huma Abedin is Hillary Clinton's closest aide, and now she might be a liability. At best, this controversy is going to mean a -2% in the national polls for Clinton.

Clinton is fortunate that the New York Post which has battered this subject with its typical sensational stories such as this gotcha one last week Huma Abedin denies active role at radical Muslim journal is not the Columbus, Ohio, Post.

Were that the case, this controversy and her personal loyalty to a friend and mentee could enmesh America in a Donald Trump Presidency.

Depending on how she handles it, it may.

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